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Kelly fuels Fire’s win over Cardinals in soccer state quarterfinal

RISING UP — Fairmont Area striker Rayah Quiring (left) elevates and heads the soccer ball over Holy Family Catholic’s Mary Furlong (17) and into the net for a goal during Class A state quarterfinal action Wednesday in Waconia. Fairmont Area’s Selma Bleess (16) watches the play. (Photo by Greg Abel)

WACONIA — Rayah Quiring’s goal off a leaping header, courtesy of Sami Lenort’s curling corner kick to the box, put the unseeded Fairmont Area Cardinals in the early driver’s seat via a 1-0 lead over the top-seeded Holy Family Catholic Fire in Wednesday’s Class A state soccer quarterfinal.

Senior striker Maeve Kelly then demonstrated why she earned first-team all-state soccer accolades this fall by lending a lethal leg to Holy Family Catholic’s four consecutive goals on the turf at Waconia High School.

Kelly netted the equalizer and assisted Gabby Legg’s go-ahead goal in the first half before drilling two more goals during the second segment for a hat trick to power the Fire to a 4-1 state playoff win over the Cardinals.

Holy Family Catholic (14-2-2), a first-time state qualifier, awaits the winner between No. 4-seeded St. Anthony Village (11-3-1) and No. 5-seeded Breck School (8-4-4) for a 5 p.m. state semifinal Thursday, Nov. 4, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. St. Anthony and Breck play their quarterfinal match at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Waconia.

“I thought for the first 20 to 30 minutes, our possessions and midfield touches were good enough to control the game’s pace,” said Fairmont Area head coach Matt Nielsen, whose lineup ended its first state appearance with a 13-5-2 overall record. “Rayah’s goal really gave us a lift mentally.”

After Fairmont Area senior keeper Cadee Becker denied HFC striker Kate Buchholz’s right-wing blast at the 35:15 juncture and then gloved Kelly’s scorched liner off a rush 7 minutes later, Quiring and Lenort worked their endline magic one more time.

Quiring’s drive created the Cardinals’ initial corner kick and Lenort utilized her patented arching shot to find the 6-foot Quiring amid the scrum in the box. Quiring elevated above the Fire defenders and headed the ball into the twine for her team-leading 29th goal of the season for a 1-0 Fairmont Area margin at the 23:48 mark. Lenort’s assist was her team-best 13th of the fall.

Kelly, however, displayed her quick reaction time by tracking down a loose ricochet and caught the Cardinal keeper out of the box. Becker alertly retreated and deflected Kelly’s low blast, but the powerful topspin allowed the shot to catch the webbing in the right corner of the net for a 1-all tie at the 13:06 mark.

Kelly and Legg then worked in perfect unison to stake the Fire to a 2-1 lead with 7:08 remaining before intermission. Kelly drove the right wing before threading a crossing pass to Legg, who drilled a riser off the cross bar and into the twine near the left post.

Kelly then needed less than 10 minutes into the second half to widen HFC’s lead to 3-1. Legg traded roles with Kelly and filtered a pass to the left wing to her potent striker. Kelly hammered a left-to-right sizzler into the corner at the 30:41 juncture.

Maggie Dowling then split the Cardinals’ tight defense to locate Kelly, who spun and lined a 15-yard blast from the right wing into the webbing for a 4-1 margin with 8:37 remaining in regulation.

Fairmont Area produced two solid offensive chances out of four second-half shots, but was turned away by HFC goalie Olivia Paidosh. Lenort’s 35-yard free kick was on target, but Paidosh managed to get a glove up to keep it out of harm’s way at the 38-minute mark.

Quiring later worked the right endline, maneuvering around Fire defenders only to have her shot corraled by Paidosh for one of her five saves.

Becker finished with 11 saves on the game en route to an impressive total of 111 for the 2021 campaign.

Fairmont Area 1-0–1

Holy Family 2-2–4

Scoring Plays

1st Half

FA–Rayah Quiring (Sami Lenort), 23:48.

HFC–Maeve Kelly (unassisted), 13:06.

HFC–Gabby Legg (Kelly), 7:08.

2nd Half

HFC–Kelly (Legg), 30:41.

HFC–Kelly (Maggie Dowling), 8:37.

Shots on goal: Holy Family Catholic 8-7–15; Fairmont Area 2-4–6. Corners: Holy Family Catholic 5; Fairmont Area 2. Saves: Cadee Becker (FA) 11; Olivia Paidosh (HFC) 5.

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